Skip to main content

Prepared Remarks of CFPB Director Richard Cordray at the Financial Literacy and Education Commission Meeting

Washington, D.C.

Thank you all for being here. I always look forward to the meetings of our Financial Literacy and Education Commission. Each time we gather, our discussions reaffirm my belief that for this country to prosper, sound financial education must be one of the foundations we work to strengthen, for people young and old. I am glad to see both new and familiar faces around the table this morning; together, we will help turn this belief into reality. During today’s meeting we will be highlighting and examining the data that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has compiled worldwide in the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment – Financial Literacy component.

I would like to thank Acting Commissioner Peggy Carr from the National Center for Education Statistics and Andreas Schleicher from the OECD for their important work on the PISA. You will hear more from them in just a bit when they take a deeper dive into the PISA findings.

The Financial Literacy Assessment, which is a part of the PISA data, represents the only international study of its kind, which measures the knowledge that 15-year-olds from around the world have of financial literacy. It is also the only nationally representative assessment on this topic that is conducted here in the United States. While I am glad we are participating in this assessment, today’s results show that we have much more work to do on financial literacy for our young people.

When the U.S. first took part in the PISA study in 2012, among the 18 countries that participated in the assessment, we ranked somewhere between 8 and 12. Three years later, we are still in about the same position. This is not the result many people in this room would have hoped for, but it clearly points the way for us to improve and grow. Results from other countries give me confidence that, with the right investments and with smart partnerships, we can make more progress on these crucial issues.

Put most simply, our young people must be able to understand how to plan and manage their finances, how to evaluate risks and rewards, and how to make sound financial decisions. Debt, interest, fees, and credit reporting will play important parts in their adult lives. They should be armed with the appropriate knowledge and training and provided ample opportunities to put their skills to use before they have to make significant financial choices in the real world.

Empowering Americans in this way is essential not only to their own financial well-being, but also to our nation’s prosperity. Financial education should be just as fundamental as the education we are all required to receive in U.S. history and government.

The FLEC members have taken forward steps toward increasing financial well-being for youth. A critical component was the FLEC’s launch of an initiative, called “Starting Early for Financial Success,” aimed at boosting the financial capability of our young people. This initiative was built around helping our youth develop the building blocks of financial capability, and map out their direction from an early age, to become financially secure adults. To achieve that goal, our children need access to appropriate educational tools and resources both at home and in school.

The Consumer Bureau is advancing this shared effort through several efforts involving parents, teachers, financial education practitioners, and youth employment programs. We do this in three ways. First, we are supporting parents and financial education providers by offering resources and information through the Bureau’s Financial Education Exchange and our online Money as You Grow resources. Second, we are working to encourage schools all over the country to integrate financial literacy into the curriculum at every grade level. Third, we are providing resources and information to help others implement financial education programs in their communities. On this front, I am especially enthusiastic about the Consumer Bureau’s Libraries project, which is putting financial education resources in libraries across the country. Our goal is to share our strategies and successes with our colleagues so we all can learn from one another.  We will be hearing from today’s panelists about some other promising state and local approaches.

The Consumer Bureau also supports financial educators through foundational research.  Our prior research led us to create an evidence-based developmental framework for understanding how young people learn and build financial capability. Based on this research, we now know that learning positive financial habits is essential to the development of financial capability and, ultimately, to a lifetime of greater financial well-being.

Today’s PISA results are a good reminder that we need to invest more in our young people if we are going to carry out this vision successfully. We must arm them with the skills they need and deserve to be successful consumers. Through our broader collaboration, we can ensure that all Americans – regardless of their income, education, or background – can develop the capability to make sound financial decisions. That is the right path toward a brighter economic future for all Americans. Thank you.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that implements and enforces Federal consumer financial law and ensures that markets for consumer financial products are fair, transparent, and competitive. For more information, visit